Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
After the Synod of the Constantinople church, which came to an end on November 29th, there were many questions. De facto, Fener (the district of Istanbul where the residence of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew currently is) didn’t give Tomos and didn’t show its contents, having limited itself to only creating a charter for the newly created church, the contents of which also weren’t shown: in the press release distributed to journalists after the Synod had ended it was said only that, “waiting for the delivery of Patriarchal and Synodal Tomos, the holy Synod prepared the charter of the Ukrainian church”. “Vesti” learned from sources what the main 9 points of this charter are, from which it follows: it isn’t necessary to talk about the independence (autocephaly) of the new structure – it is rather about its full subordination to Constantinople (and this is a different status, “Metropolis“).
WHAT IS SAID IN THE CHARTER
The main points of the document that Constantinople registered for the new orthodox church are as follows:
- The Ukrainian church is “inseparably linked” with the Constantinople Patriarchate, and through it – with all other churches (i.e., it doesn’t differ in any way from the current situation with the [canonical – ed] Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is connected to the orthodox world through the Russian Orthodox Church).
- Special emphasis is placed on the fact that it is the throne of Constantinople that grants autocephaly. (It turns out that the one who grants this status can also take it away, like in the case with the abolition of the “Russian exarchate” in Western Europe, which was adopted by Constantinople during the same Synod).
- The head of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine can only be the Metropolitan, and not the Patriarch. (I.e. the head of one of the greatest orthodox churches of the world will be lower in rank than, for example, patriarch Kirill).
- The hierarchal Sobor of the church is ordered to contact the Ecumenical Patriarch concerning all global questions, and the latter, reacting to the appeal, will report to the Sobor “what is necessary”. (I.e. the body of the highest church authorities has to be coordinated with Fener and wait for instructions). Also, according to our information, there is a bullet point with a reservation that Constantinople shouldn’t explain its decisions.
- The Ecumenical Patriarchate takes upon itself also the question of the adoption of statutes of church entities. (It turns out that the statutes of monasteries can’t be approved without the consent of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Ukraine – it isn’t excluded that Fener introduced this bullet point in the hope of receiving a number of monasteries under its control, having made them stauropegic monasteries, i.e. having received direct control over them).
- The Ukrainian church will receive myrrh (i.e. the special substance used in sacraments) only from Constantinople.
- The church won’t be able to independently canonise its saints, and will give them to Constantinople for approval.
- If there are problems when electing the Metropolitan of Kiev that “may affect the unity of the church”, it will be reported to the Ecumenical Patriarch, and he in turn must “carry out steps to resolve the situation”. (It is important that this is registered in the Charter – i.e. the mechanism of influence remains for a long time, if not forever).
- The Ecumenical Patriarchate becomes the highest appeal structure. In the charter it is specified that an archbishop who is banned from service, deprived of their chair, or subjected to other sanctions has the right to address to the Ecumenical Patriarchate with an appeal. (I.e. the Ukrainian church will have no independence even concerning internal disciplinary decisions).
“THIS IS A STATUS OF A METROPOLIS”
Religious scholar Aleksey Smirnov already drew the attention of “Vesti” to such formal points of independence of the church, such as Chrism and the right of appeal. “Those churches that are engaged in Chrism independently are indeed independent. But for Fener it is important that it is recognised as the center of Orthodoxy – Constantinople puts forward an indispensable condition – that all churches that are being created receive this substance from it,” explained the religious scholar to “Vesti”. “Also Fener seeks to receive the status of a ‘court of the highest authority'”.
“I would pay special attention to the bullet point concerning the adoption of statutes of church entities – Constantinople obviously wants to make a certain number of monasteries in Ukraine its stauropegic ones, there are different figures (from 1 to 20 monasteries). This is a question of income, property, and the creation of representations as new points of presence in Ukraine,” explained the political scientist Aleksey Yakubin to “Vesti”. “This once again confirms that the new church will have the status of a metropolis”.
Even more significant points speak about the essential downgrade of the church’s status – dependence on external relations, the status of “affiliated” structure (in relation to the “maternal” one – Constantinople) and the right of Bartholomew to interfere with the appointment procedures of the Metropolitan of Kiev. “There is no talk about fully-fledged autocephaly, as well as a Local orthodox church – the ‘1 of 15 churches’ that Petro Poroshenko talks about. The new structure will receive much less independence than the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has up to now,” considers the political scientist Kost Bondarenko.
And according to Yakubin, even in the current status of “unrecognised structure”, the priests of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate (UOC KP) have “more powers than this document gives”. It is indicative that inside the UOC KP, according to our information, discontent is ripening. “It became clear that there is a serious divergence in our understanding of ‘autocephaly’ and Fener’s understanding of it. The Greeks give autonomy only in relation to a number of questions, while Constantinople controls all important processes,” said a high-ranking hierarch from the Kiev Patriarchate.
According to “Vesti”, the new date of the Unifying sobor can become December 10th, 11th, and also 12th. “It is difficult to say to what extent the UOC KP and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church will be ready to unite whilst understanding what is being offered to them. And Constantinople demanded the participation of 30-40 bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the Sobor (according to the religious scholar Yury Reshetnikov – no less than two-thirds of all bishops of the Ukrainain Orthodox Church), they, of course, can lower the level to 5-10 people, but it once again will show the inability of the Ukrainian side to fulfil its promise,” concluded Bondarenko.
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